Tags: derek chauvin | george floyd | trial

Opening Statements Begin in Ex-officer's Trial in Floyd's Death

Opening Statements Begin in Ex-officer's Trial in Floyd's Death
In this image from video, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill gestures Monday prior to opening statements in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Court TV via AP)

Monday, 29 March 2021 12:45 PM

A prosecutor told jurors Monday in his opening statement at former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin Chauvin's trial on murder charges that the ex-officer "squeezed" the life out of George Floyd when he arrested him last May, while a defense lawyer countered that Chauvin was following his police training.

Jerry Blackwell, a prosecutor with the Minnesota attorney general's office, told jurors that officers who wear the Minneapolis police badge pledge to never use "unnecessary force or violence."

"You will learn that on May 25, Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of George Floyd," Blackwell said.

Chauvin's lead attorney, Eric Nelson, said in his opening statement that "Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do over the course of his 19 year career. The use of force is not attractive but it is a necessary component of policing."

Blackwell He displayed a still image from a bystander's cellphone video of Chauvin, who his white, with his knee on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, saying it showed Chauvin "grinding and crushing him until the very breath — no, ladies and gentlemen — the very life was squeezed out of him."

Floyd's death ignited a global protest movement over police brutality against Black people. In the preceding two weeks of jury selection, many jurors told Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill and the lawyers on each side that they recognized the scrutiny their deliberations would come under, not least by those who view the trial as a reckoning for how Black people are policed in the United States.

"It's been a long time coming," a gospel choir sang on Sunday evening at a euphoric prayer service attended by Floyd's relatives at a church a few blocks east of the deadly arrest. "But I know a change is gonna come."

Philonise Floyd, a brother of George Floyd, said before the service began that he had faith that Chauvin would be convicted.

"The video is the proof," he said.

Prosecutors played the most widely seen bystander video to jurors on Monday. Chauvin, dressed in a gray suit, a blue face mask and a blue shirt and tie, took pages of notes on a yellow legal pad as the dying moans of Floyd and the yelling of horrified onlookers filled the courtroom.

Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, with his lawyers arguing that he followed his training and that the main cause of Floyd's death, which the county examiner ruled a homicide, was a drug overdose. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge. The Minneapolis Police Department fired Chauvin and the three other officers involved the day after the arrest.

Defense lawyer Nelson used his opening statement to describe Floyd's drug use and a chaotic scene during the arrest, saying the screaming of bystanders ended up "causing the officers to divert their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd."

The tower in downtown Minneapolis that houses the courtroom was ringed with concrete barriers, barbed wire and soldiers from the state's National Guard. For blocks around, businesses are closed and windows boarded up, fearing a repeat of the arson and other property damage that occurred after Floyd's death.

Less than three miles away, residents maintain a vigil at the intersection where Floyd died while being arrested by Chauvin and three other officers on suspicion of passing a fake $20 bill at the Cup Foods grocery store nearby.

Four sets of barricades block police from coming to the intersection, now called George Floyd Square, which is filled with flowers, posters, murals and other tributes to Floyd.

The jury, including three alternates, is made up of six white women, three white men, three Black men, one Black woman and two multiracial women, according to court records.

Legal experts have noted that U.S. police officers have almost never been found criminally liable for killing a citizen. Chauvin's lawyers have said they will try to convince the jury that the fentanyl, an opioid painkiller, found in Floyd's blood by the medical examiner played a bigger role in killing Floyd than the officer's restraint.

© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


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A prosecutor told jurors Monday in his opening statement at former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin Chauvin's trial on murder charges that the ex-officer "squeezed" the life out of George Floyd when he arrested him last May, while a defense lawyer countered that Chauvin...
derek chauvin, george floyd, trial
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2021-45-29
Monday, 29 March 2021 12:45 PM
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